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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 3 Hansard (28 March) . . Page.. 804 ..

Stirling and Copland Colleges

MS McRAE: My question is directed to Mr Stefaniak in his capacity as Minister for Education. Can you confirm that enrolments at Stirling and Copland colleges are at an alarmingly low level? Can you outline what you have done to ensure that these colleges remain open?

MR STEFANIAK: I thank the member for the question. I would hardly call the enrolments at Copland alarming, although I saw some people from Copland late last year in relation to declining enrolments at Copland. As Ms McRae well knows, there are declining enrolments at a number of Canberra high schools, colleges and, indeed, primary schools as a result of demography as much as anything else.

As Ms McRae also should know in relation to the issue of declining enrolments, the ministerial advisory committee, as its first point of reference, is considering that very question and is considering the hitherto unasked question of capping, which is certainly something which I do not think the previous Government looked at but which is certainly something that the Copland community and other communities were keen about. That is certainly one of the points that will be looked at in the general question of declining enrolments which affect a number of schools across the ACT and which will continue to affect them as a result of demographic changes. It is a real concern in our community, and that is why it is the first point that is being looked at by the ministerial advisory committee this year.

MS McRAE: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Mr Stefaniak, I asked you specifically about Stirling and Copland and about what you are doing. I understand that you have an advisory committee. The numbers are low this year. Is it the case that you do not care whether schools close?

MR STEFANIAK: What a silly question! Of course this Government cares.

Ms McRae: We saw what happened to Charnwood.

MR STEFANIAK: Of course this Government cares. In that case, of course, the Government acted in the best interests of the students. It is to stop situations like that, Ms McRae, where your Government did nothing, absolutely nothing, and let that college decline for about six years, that the matter is being looked at. I would expect the committee to report mid-year, well in time for us to take any actions that we might take.

In the meantime, I have also spoken, of course, to concerned people at Stirling and at Copland. They are taking steps themselves. There should be some very good recommendations coming out of this particular review. I want it to be as wide-ranging as possible. When we consider controversial issues such as capping, all the relevant community has to be consulted. That obviously includes Year 12, Year 11 and Year 10 kids, parents and colleges; it should be system-wide. That is a very crucial issue, as indeed are other issues relevant to declining enrolments.

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